Chicago Cubs vs. Houston Astros Preview, Saturday 9/17, 12:05 CT: History Could Be Made

Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs slides home to score the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Astros 4-3. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

This is the 50th season of the Houston major league franchise, first known as the Colt 45s, then (since 1965) the Astros. Since starting play in 1962, they have won 3,939 games and lost 4,020, for a record of 81 games under .500. That isn't too bad for a team that has, including this season, 11 years of 90+ losses out of the 50, and seven of 96 defeats or more.

But until now, no Houston Astros team has ever lost 100 games in a season. If the Cubs can defeat them today, that "drought" will be broken. Houston is 51-99. Meanwhile, the Cubs trail the Pirates by just two games for fourth place. Such is our lot in life, in baseball 2011.

Congratulations this morning to the Detroit Tigers, who became the first team to clinch a division title Friday night when they defeated the Oakland Athletics 3-1. (The Phillies have clinched at least a wild card, but their magic number to sew up the NL East is still one after they lost on Friday.) The Tigers now turn their attention to playoff seeding; they're currently second in the AL, two games ahead of the Rangers -- but only three behind the Yankees.

Remember playoff seeding and matchups? For the Cubs, it was just three years ago. It will happen again; as bad as things seem now, the Cubs will turn things around. It's just a matter of how long it will take.

Cubs lineup:

Castro ss, Campana cf, Ramirez eb, Pena 1b, LaHair rf, Soriano lf, Barney 2b, Soto c, Lopez p

Astros lineup:

Schafer cf, Barmes ss, Martinez lf, Lee 1b, Bogusevic rf, Downs 2b, Paredes 3b, Corporan c, Sosa p
Today's Starting Pitchers
Rodrigo Lopez
Rodrigo Lopez
Cubs
vs. Henry Sosa
Henry Sosa
Astros
5-6 W-L 2-4
5.04 ERA 5.02
46 SO 28
25 BB 15
18 HR 5
vs. Hou -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Rodrigo Lopez 5-6 24 14 0 0 0 0 85.2 108 55 48 18 25 46 5.04 1.55


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2011 - Henry Sosa 2-4 7 7 0 0 0 0 37.2 36 21 21 5 15 28 5.02 1.35

Let me ask you something. Do you really want to read a pitcher preview of a matchup between Rodrigo Lopez and Henry Sosa? Lopez is 35 years old; he'll be 36 in December. Sosa just turned 26 in July. They are both six-foot-one and weigh about the same. It seems very likely that nine years from now, Henry Sosa will have grown up to become the Rodrigo Lopez of the 2010s.

These pitchers have faced each other already this year, on August 15 in Houston. Take a look at that box score. Honestly, it's about the most nondescript game I can imagine. There weren't any home runs hit that night. Nor were there any balks, wild pitches, hit batters, caught stealings or pickoffs. The Cubs made a couple of errors, leading to one unearned Astros run, but the Cubs won anyway despite going 2-for-13 with RISP and leaving 10 men on base.

Just trying to prepare you for what you might see this afternoon.

Today's game is on WGN and my-20 in Houston. Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Astros site Crawfish Boxes.

Today's first pitch thread will be up at 12:05 p.m. CDT and the overflow threads will post at 1 pm, 2 pm and 2:45 pm CDT. If you need more overflows due to extra innings or rain delays, post them in the fanshot section.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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